At the Sorbonne, Sartre liked to shock his fellow
students. At one dance, he turned up naked; at a
university ball he paraded a hooker in a red dress.
But when he met the beautiful, young Simone he was
entranced. She was as intelligent as any man, and,
similarly disenchanted with her bourgeois family,
she shared his fascination with the Paris underworld.
After their finals, in which he passed top, and she
second (though the examiners agreed she was strictly
the better philosopher and at the age of 21 the
youngest person ever to have sat the exam), Sartre
Simone refused - not for any philosophical reason
but because she was sleeping with one of his best
For 51 years, the conversations between them created
ideas, books, and a bond which other passions enraged
or enriched, but never altogether ruptured. It was,
for De Beauvoir, an experiment in loving of which
"existentialism" was the child.
"What we have," he said early on to De Beauvoir, "is
an essential love; but it is a good idea for us also
to experience contingent love affairs."
There were no children. They never shared a house,
though for much of their life and certainly at the
last, they saw each other daily.
In their own words, she and Sartre enjoyed "The
advantages of a life together and none of its
Always pushing new boundaries, they explored their
thoughts in novels, plays and philosophical works.
De Beauvoir's discriminating mind was crucial to
the development of Sartre's thought - she made
sense of his phenomenological confusions in
L'Etre et le néant, she read and edited his
manuscripts, she even wrote articles for him to
publish under his own name .
It earned Sartre the world's greatest literary
accolade, the Nobel Prize.
Yet he refused to accept it because he thought it
would make him an establishment figure and thus
silence his inquiring mind.
De Beauvoir became the mother of the modern
women's movement with the publication of her
book, The Second Sex.
"One is not born a woman, one becomes one.
Everything I have read, seen and learnt over
the last thirty years has confirmed me in this
idea. Femaleness is manufactured in the same
way as masculinity, virility, is manufactured."
The Americans did not take to Simone as they had
to Sartre. They disliked her drinking, they mocked
her clothes and they noticed her faint whiff of
She, in turn, disliked the bland faces of American
women who did everything they could to please their men.
'I am awfully greedy,' she wrote. 'I want everything
from life, I want to be a woman and to be a man.'
Sartre died six years before Simone. And so she
wrote her nihilistic epitaph for the tomb they would
ultimately share, ensuring their Godless creed would
go down in history. 'His death separates us, my death
will not reunite us,' it read.
words mishmashed and pasted from the following: